President Moon Jae-in on Thursday called for courts' efforts to correct their past wrongdoings and make the judiciary branch independent, calling it the only way to win the much-needed faith of the people.
"The people are now working to build a just Republic of Korea. And all government officials, including myself, are now standing on the rule of law that the people restored," the president said in a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the court system, which came shortly after the country's liberation from the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule on Aug. 15.
"I am beginning to realize how great a burden it is to uphold the spirit of the candlelight vigils," the president said, referring to the anti-government rallies in late 2016 that led to the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye over corruption allegations the following year.
"The weight cannot be any different for the judiciary or legislative branches. Now the judiciary branch faces a very important task of winning back the people's trust," he added.
Moon's remarks came amid allegations that the Supreme Court, under the leadership of its ex-chief Yang Sung-tae, may have used a number of controversial and sensitive trials as bargaining chips in possible negotiations with the former Park Geun-hye administration to get what it wants, such as a new appellate court.
Prosecution investigators have already raided the Supreme Court for evidence, while the ruling Democratic Party is calling for a special investigation into the alleged judicial power abuse scandal.
"Allegations of judicial power abuse and dealings in trials under the former government are disturbing the very foundation of the people's trust in the judiciary branch," Moon said. "It is a crisis the judiciary branch has never faced before."
However, the president insisted the courts still had a chance to win back the people's trust.
"Had there been any wrongdoing, the judiciary branch must correct its own mistakes by itself. I believe the judiciary branch has the strength to meet the people's expectations," he said.
"Most of all, our people will see hope for the judiciary branch in sincere efforts by the judges to change." (Yonhap)